Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

No Small Victory Commentary

Today I finished reading Connie Brummel Crook's latest book No Small Victory. The story follows the adventures and mishaps of Beatrice (aka Bonnie) when she and her family relocate to Lang, Ontario, in the height of the depression.

While it wasn't a bad book, there is really nothing stand-out about it either. 9-year-old Bonnie is far from thrilled about moving to a new town far away from her friends, family and her school.  The family is poor, but living on a rural farm helps ensure that they don't go hungry.

There are many things to like about Bonnie. She's smart, loves to read and write stories, and would prefer to become a teacher than a housewife when she grows up. She tries her best to please her parents, and makes mistakes along the way. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters are not well-flushed out, and seem two-dimensional.  The epidemic of choice is Scarlet Fever, (which is a switch from TB or Polio) but it's really only lightly touched on before the author moves on.

The trouble with most of these small-town books is that while the details of small-town-life are well-described, they lack the depth and charm that classics like Anne of Green Gables still have today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reading Historical Fiction

This year, I have the privelege of being on the jury for the Geoffrey Bilson Award- an award given annually to the best historical novel for young people by a Canadian author. As the reading period draws to a close, the next stage of the process is to narrow the selection from 30 or so down to my top ten.

With a few books left to go, I can already see from my notes that I will have some whittling down to do of my list. I must confess though that the remaining books were at the bottom of my stack for a reason, so I'm not expecting to fall in love with any of them (but I am certainly open to being surprised).

Regardless of which book the jury selects as the winner, I have learned a lot about what makes a historical novel stand out for me. I enjoy reading about different time periods and events in history, and the ones that I loved contain vivid historical details but have contemporary voices.

I also discovered that while reading about small-town Ontario in 19- (fill in the blank here) was interesting the first time around, by the sixth book there isn't much left to say. Just because your mother/grandmother/aunt told you stories about their childhood doesn't mean that young readers will be interested in hearing about it.

This leads me to a question for the readers- How do you define "good" historcal fiction?